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Oregon legislature makes historic investment in state’s public safety workforce

Photo: Sean Pavone/ iStock
Oregon legislature makes historic investment in state’s public safety workforce
By Oregon AFSCME ·

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make an historic investment in the state’s public safety workers.

The Oregon Legislature passed HB 4045, the Public Safety Workforce Stabilization Act, with bipartisan support in the House and the Senate earlier this week. That marks a significant step forward in prioritizing the dedicated workers who serve on the front lines of public safety by allowing them to retire with enhanced benefits.

HB 4045 would create a new "hazardous" category within the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) for 911 dispatchers as well as nurses and physicians at Oregon State Hospital who are members of Tier 3, Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan (OPSRP).

The bill would also allow all OPSRP members in the police and  fire category to retire five years earlier with full benefits, changing the retirement age from 60 to 55. This would benefit thousands of workers at the Stabilization and Crisis Unit and Department of Corrections who experience significant stress and a large number of injuries due to the high physical demand.

"This bill is a game-changer for public safety workers across Oregon. By recognizing the unique challenges and hazards faced by public safety workers, HB 4045 sends a clear message of appreciation for the indispensable contributions 911 operators make to our communities. This change will also make the field more attractive to prospective employees at a time when public safety agencies across the state are facing a staffing crises,” said Fred Yungbluth, a 911 operator in Clackamas County and president of Oregon AFSCME.

"The passage of HB 4045 is what happens when workers who have been physically and mentally drained by harsh working conditions come together and fight for change,” said Joe Baessler, executive director of Oregon AFSCME. “Today, we celebrate this policy change that will start to positively impact the lives of thousands of workers who selflessly dedicate themselves to protecting and serving our communities."

Gov. Tina Kotek is expected to sign HB 4045 into law soon.

Public safety officials in other states have also been getting help from their elected representatives. For instance, 911 dispatchers in Arizona secured PTSD counseling last fall and dispatchers in New York won flexible schedules just last month.

Public safety professionals across the nation are increasingly turning to AFSCME to build power at work, and advocate for safety on the job, better wages, good health care and a secure retirement. AFSCME members in corrections, law enforcement and emergency response defend our freedoms and those of the communities we serve. Visit the AFSCME Public Safety website to get involved and learn more.

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